National News

California Dioceses Say Honoring of Anti-Catholic LGBTQ+ Group Disrespects Women Religious

The sunsets over Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles May 16, 2023. The Dodgers said in a May 15 statement it was canceling a planned tribute to the California-based Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group criticized by many as anti-Catholic. The team was going to honor the group for its community service among several organizations being recognized during the Dodgers annual Pride Night in June. (OSV News photo)

WASHINGTON — The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the decision by the Los Angeles Dodgers to re-invite the drag group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to their Pride Night game in June, and honor them along with other organizations, “makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious.”

The May 23 statement by the archdiocese said the team’s decision to “honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith,” and women religious in particular, “has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community.”

The group that describes itself as a “leading-edge order of queer and trans nuns” was invited, then uninvited, and then re-invited on May 22 by the Dodgers to be honored at the team’s June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

The initial invite caused backlash from Catholic groups and politicians, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that led the Dodgers to cancel the group’s invitation on May 17, saying at the time that their inclusion of the group “has been the source of some controversy.”

But after local politicians, civil rights organizations, and LGBTQ groups raised an uproar over that decision, the Dodgers apologized and re-invited the group less than a week later.

Two days before this turnaround, Anaheim’s mayor invited the drag group to be her guests at the Los Angeles Angels’ Pride Night game on June 7.

Mayor Ashleigh Aitken announced she was inviting the group in a tweet where she also said: “Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers decision.”

The Diocese of Orange, California, which includes Anaheim, called the mayor’s decision to “openly embrace a group whose demeaning behavior is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian is misguided and disrespectful of the sisters of the Catholic Church who minister in Orange County.”

The statement, released in a May 22 tweet, described the local women religious as women who “selflessly dedicate their lives to God’s underserved people.

“We cannot condone any actions that have historically shown such high levels of disregard for sincerely held beliefs of the faithful,” it added.

The statement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese similarly praised women religious and said their ministries and vocations “should be honored and celebrated through genuine acts of appreciation, reverence, and respect for their sacred vows, and for all the good works of our nuns and sisters in service of the mission of the Catholic Church.

“Our women religious have dedicated their lives to the Catholic faith and mission, sharing God’s loving grace with others,” the statement said, noting that the sisters in the archdiocese educate inner city students and care for the sick, the homeless, the hungry, and those in need.

The archdiocese said it “calls on all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form and to stand for respect for one another and for the religious beliefs of our communities of faith. 

“Let us also show our care and respect for our women religious by sending a message of support to their communities through phone calls, letters, and posts on their social channels, supporting vocations by donating to their orders, and/or making donations in their name to the programs they support. Let us show the world how much our women religious mean to us and our Church.”

In an effort to mute some of the negative feedback from the re-invitation to the drag group the Dodgers tweeted on Friday afternoon May 26, “Join us at Dodger Stadium on 7/30 for Christian Faith and Family Day. Stay after the game to celebrate and be part of a day of worship. Stay tuned for more details.”

When the Dodgers originally announced that the group would be honored, the Catholic League and CatholicVote protested, calling it bigotry to honor an anti-Catholic group.

The groups’ leaders wrote their complaints to Rob Manfred, commissioner of Major League Baseball, and urged followers to similarly write or call him and provided contact information.

The letter from Bill Donohue, the Catholic League’s president, said the Dodgers’ plan to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was “an unprovoked assault on Catholics. 

“Don’t believe the lie that the ‘Sisters’ mean no harm,” he said, accusing the Dodgers of “rewarding hate speech.”

In response to the team’s re-invitation of the group, CatholicVote President Brian Burch vowed to launch a “barrage” of advertising against the team across Los Angeles and during the game broadcasts. 

“This is a slap in the face of every Catholic,” said Burch. “We’re raising $1 million as fast as we can, and we will pummel this decision in advertising that the Dodgers can’t ignore.

“Every advertiser, every season ticket holder, every charity, every fan must speak out against the Dodgers’ decision to promote anti-Catholic hate,” Burch added. 

In a May 19 statement after the group had been uninvited, Donohue thanked Manfred and the Dodgers for “doing the right thing.

“Justice was done in the end. There is no room for anti-Catholic bigotry in any gay or trans celebratory event,” he added.

Rubio’s press release after the Dodgers initially said they were honoring the group said: “Baseball has always been tied to our nation’s values, at the heart of which is faith in God. It would be an outrage and a tragedy if the MLB, in pursuit of modern, secular, and indeed anti-religious ‘values,’ rebuked that faith and the millions of believing fans who cherish the sport.”

The Angelus, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, pointed out that some of the biggest names in Dodgers history during their time in Los Angeles have been Catholic, including the late player and manager Gil Hodges, Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, late manager Tommy Lasorda, and the legendary broadcast announcer Vin Scully, who died last year.

It added that the O’Malley family, which oversaw the team’s move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1955, also were known for being active in Catholic causes and events during their ownership of the team from 1950 until 1998, when they sold the team.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence made Catholic news in 2007 when then-San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer gave Communion to two members of the group at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco without realizing who they were.

In a column for the Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper, Archbishop Niederauer said he later realized they were “members of this particular organization and that giving them holy Communion had been a mistake.

“I apologize to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and to Catholics at large for doing so,” he wrote. 

The archbishop said the dress and behavior of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are “deeply offensive to women religious and to the witness of holiness and Christian service that women religious have offered to the Church and to the world for centuries.”

He also said that the previous year he had instructed the administrator of Most Holy Redeemer Parish to stop allowing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to use the hall on the parish grounds.